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College celebrates season with Madrigal dinner

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Saint Mary’s Music Department will usher in the Christmas season this weekend with its 39th annual Madrigal dinner, a medieval-themed feast and musical performance.

Junior Toni Marsteller, who scripted and directed the performance and is cast as the Wench, said the theatrics and music are interwoven in the meal rather than preceding or following it.

“[The dinner features] Renaissance and medieval-style music, and there are actors who provide a little comedy throughout the dinner,” she said.

Music professor Nancy Menk, who will direct the Madrigal for the 28th time, said the choir performances will include a combination of traditional songs with a few fresh selections.

“Some songs are standards,” Menk said. “We always sing the Wassail Song when we bring out the Wassail bowl, we always sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas,’ and each year I try to add one or two new songs.”

First year Katie Corbett plays the role of the Jester, who taunts the other characters throughout the performance.

“I’m an acting major, so I read for the Jester role, and it sounded really funny,” she said. “I’m really excited, but I’m also a little nervous. I hope everyone enjoys the show.”

Corbett’s Jester conspires with junior Sophie Korson’s character, the Cook, to play tricks on the Wench.

Korson, who has never participated in the Madrigal dinner before, said she decided to take part simply for the fun of it.

“It sounded like fun, and I was open to trying it out,” she said.

Sophomore Lauren Murphy, a member of the Women’s Choir performing at the dinner, said the performance helps spread the Christmas cheer around campus.

“I like dressing up and getting into character,” she said. “The show really helps set the tone for the Christmas season.”

Over her nearly three decades at the helm of the Madrigal, Wenk said the tradition has evolved significantly.

“Before my time, they actually stopped the show and did an opera right in the middle of the show,” she said. “One of the major changes was to change from a co-ed to an all-women’s choir, about seven or eight years ago, to better represent Saint Mary’s College.”

Menk said she is amazed by the transformative effect the show has on Regina Hall, where it is presented.

“The girls look so beautiful in their dresses and the room looks amazing,” she said. “By the time we’re done with it, it’s amazing to think it’s just a dorm lounge.”

The Madrigal dinner will be celebrated Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.